Friday 24th May 2024

(3 weeks, 5 days ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Alok Sharma Portrait Sir Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I welcome this opportunity to put on record my heartfelt thanks to all those with whom I have worked during my time as a Member of Parliament for Reading West. I am enormously grateful to my constituents for putting their faith in me through four successive general elections, and over the past 14 years as an MP—and indeed, during the four years prior to that, when I was a parliamentary candidate.

I have had the great joy of working with so many brilliant people and organisations across Reading. Together, we campaigned successfully to set up one of the first free schools in the country, the All Saints Junior School, which is still rated outstanding. We founded a new secondary school, the Wren School. We won funding for upgrades for local train stations at Theale and Tilehurst, and money for a new station in Green Park. We got the money for and ensured the construction of flood-alleviation schemes in Tilehurst and Purley. We secured a vital road crossing upgrade on Dee Road in the vicinity of several primary schools. We kept Pincents hill green. We campaigned successfully together for stronger sentences for dangerous driving, and to strengthen legislation to deal with illegal encampments. We got the No. 33 bus redirected from the Birds estate. I could go on, and every colleague here will have a similar and probably longer list, but the one thing that I hope we will all agree on is that without the strength, energy and commitment of our constituents, none of what we do locally would be possible. I therefore thank each and every one of my constituents from the bottom of my heart.

It has been a real privilege to serve in government in a whole range of roles and Departments. I came into the role of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary as the covid pandemic came upon us. I want to thank everyone, in the Government system and outside, who played such vital and important roles in making sure that we got support to millions of businesses and supported jobs up and down our country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) said, we should be proud of what we did as a Government during the covid pandemic.

My right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock) is not in his seat, but he talked about vaccines. The vaccines taskforce sat within the Business Department, and we worked collaboratively across Government. If ever there was a beacon for how a national mission should be deployed, it would be the vaccines taskforce. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds, I place on record my grateful thanks to all the scientists, the folks in industry, the NHS, and the civil servants who worked so hard to ensure that our country was the first in the world to deploy a vaccine.

The last of the roles that I did in government was on COP26. I have been told by very many people internationally, including those in foreign governance, that COP26 was one of the biggest soft power wins for the UK in decades. We led the world on the green agenda, and that would not have been possible without the tireless work of so many of our brilliant civil servants, many of them unsung heroes, and, of course, the UK’s outstanding diplomats across the world. When I worked on COP, I genuinely felt that I stood on the shoulders of giants. We have for many years enjoyed a strong political consensus on the need to reach net zero in our economy. I believe—and I know that many friends here believe it, too—that we are stronger for it. I very much hope that that consensus is maintained in the critical decades ahead, because I can tell you that the world wants our country to continue to lead on the green agenda, and I hope that we will.

I also thank my friends in the Reading West Conservative Association, who first put their faith in me when they selected me in 2006. As all other colleagues have done, I thank my brilliant parliamentary staff from over the years. It is always invidious to name colleagues and pick them out, but I particularly want to place on the record my thanks to Jessica Inns, who has patiently worked with me for many more years than I think she would care to remember, and to Will Saunders and Rachel Quinn, who will continue to work right to the last day for the constituents of Reading West. I know that all their mums and dads will be thrilled that they are getting a mention in Hansard.

I also thank my family: my wonderful mum and dad, my fabulous wife Ingela, and my brilliant daughters Isabella and Charlotta. As we all know, we could not do this without their support. Serving as a Member of Parliament is a rare privilege, and I will always carry a piece of this place in my heart.